Deep breaths: patience isn't always something you're born with. You can cultivate it.

Author:Onderko, Patty
Position:YOUR PLAN: HAPPINESS - Editorial

Certain attributes--such as grit, gratitude and resilience--have risen out of positive psychology research as traits to cultivate for maximum well-being. We imagine them as singular qualities to be worked on one at a time and added to our personal stockpile of weapons against negativity. But of course, all of these characteristics work together. Focus on awe, and you're very likely to become more grateful. Strengthen your self-compassion, and your resilience is bound to increase, too.

One virtue can serve as a gateway to the others: patience. As a stand-alone positive psychology buzzword, it's not as beefy as gratitude and resilience. Studies haven't borne out the connection between patience and well-being as strongly as they have with curiosity and creativity. But patience is so tightly knit into the fabric of these other qualities that it's hard to tell whether it's the cause or effect, says Bernard Golden, Ph.D., a psychologist in Chicago and author of Overcoming Destructive Anger and Unlock Your Creative Genius.

As a positivity portal, patience is ideal. Patience-building strategies can feel more accessible than those for the more erudite and elusive awe, for example. If you can count your breaths, you can work on your patience. Plus, practicing patience has an immediate, in-the-moment payoff. You can curtail anger, lower stress, and avoid and resolve conflicts.

One of the keys is to slow your temper. "Quick-tempered people assume that they are hardwired to be that way," says Daniel H. Gallagher, Ph.D., a psychologist in Maplewood, New Jersey. But that's not true. "Research has shown us that calming exercises such as deep breathing can change one's physiological response to a situation and allow clearer thinking," he says. Your brain can better engage its executive functioning areas--and come up with sensible solutions--when it isn't clouded by the anger and anxiety that impatience breeds. So don't hide behind...

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